August 2016
Book Blast is Coming 
The SCBWI Book Launch Party program had been re-tooled and will debut as
Book Blast this fall! 
Book Blast will run from Monday, October 10 and wrap up on Friday, November 18.
SCBWI members and the general book buying public will be able to browse the pages and purchase books by our members.
Starting September 1, members can begin creating their pages from the seven templates we're currently working on updating. Pages must be completed by Tuesday, October 4 to be included in the promotion. Any book published in 2016 is eligible to create a page. You can be part of Book Blast, and purchase and create your own page for the same price as last year of $25. We look forward to seeing your Book Blast page! Let's all support the Book Blast program. 
Browse.  Buy.  Enjoy!

Special INSIGHT edition:
45th Annual SCBWI LA Conference Highlights

Almost 1,000 people attended the 45th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles.  Keynote speakers, breakout sessions and intensives provided inspiration and instruction on every aspect of publishing for children.  For those of you who couldn't be there, we want to give you some of the highlights, so this month's Insight contains some of the best kernels of information and a few of the memorable moments from the conference.

Keynote: Justin Chanda: The State of the State of the Industry

By Lin Oliver
Justin Chanda is Vice President & Publisher of the four flagship children's imprints at Simon & Schuster: S&S Books for Young Readers, McElderry Books, Atheneum, and the new Salaam Reads. He oversees the publication of two hundred and fifty titles per year and naturally, is a student of the marketplace. At SCBWI Summer conference, he delivered a State of the Children's Book Industry address. Here are some of the crucial points he emphasized.
  • The state of the children's book industry is strong. Sales of children's print books were up 2% last year. Predictions that sales of ebooks would negatively impact print books have proved false.
  • Sales levels of teen titles waned last year, showing a 25% decrease. Particularly precipitous was the decline in YA ebook sales, due to adults leaving the YA space.
  • While children's book sales are up year over year, the industry is selling more copies of fewer titles. The fallout of this is that it is still difficult to get attention for mid-list titles.
  • In picture book and middle grade categories, a handful of titles are dominant, with sales of these titles driven by the robots and algorithms of online sales.
  • Blockbuster titles "keep the lights on" at publishing houses, but publishing a variety of titles is the true business of children's books.
  • Librarians and educators are the buzz builders.
  • The past two years have been excellent for independent bookstores, demonstrated both by increased sales and an uptick in the number of stores. This is great news for us all!
  • Key advice to SCBWI Members: Erase the word TREND from your thinking. Trends are the mortal enemy of authentic writing. #END THE TREND. Instead, write what inspires you. The best advice is to write, illustrate, rinse, repeat.
  • Meeting the needs of a diverse community is paramount. Do no treat the diversity movement as a trend. It is real life, and diversity needs to be the norm.
  • Finally, Justin reminded us that children's book people are good citizens of the planet. We couldn't agree more.

Breakout Session: Arthur Levine
When It's Personal: Translating Life into Fiction
By Jolie Stekly   
"That should be a book." We hear this all the time.
Arthur A. Levine, publisher at Scholastic, and picture book author of such books as the newly released What A Beautiful Morning, said good fiction is drawn from the personal-plots and themes that come out of our lives. We have preexisting characters, settings, and emotions. We know them, and this is helpful.
    But there are challenges---blind spots. "When story comes from our lives," Arthur said, "we know it so well that we lose track of what we can see and what readers can or can't." Everything needs to be set up for the reader. A real-life setting or character that is vivid in memories might not be on the page for our readers.
    With a little distance, writing a work of fiction from personal experience can be a platform from which good writing and self-understanding emerges. As writers we have the flexibility to mix and match our stories. Readers won't know. "You don't have to have fidelity to the exact story you are writing about," Arthur said. Combine real life and the made up to create some distance and the right feel for your story.
    The stories and anecdotes we come across in our lives are just tools. "The feelings we have, and that we want to express, are clothing that our characters can wear, and it doesn't have to be characters that are the same size and shape as us."
Breakout Session: Marie Lu
Creating Characters Readers Flip For 
 By Martha Brockenbrough

If you want to create a great book, you'd better know what's in your characters' veins--or at least that's how Marie Lu writes her New York Times best-selling series. Characters--and not plot--are the driving force behind her books, she said. "I know everything right down to their blood types."
    She talked about her character-creation process at the summer SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. Marie doesn't outline before she writes, but she does write pages and pages about each of her characters. These documents evolve as she writes her stories and gets to know her characters.
    She also gives her characters weaknesses as well as strengths, and her definition of a "weakness" is fascinating: A character's weakness is something that will make them violate their values.
    After she knows her characters inside and out, she builds a world around them, and the story emerges. Her first drafts, which she considers "zero drafts," tend to be messy, but they help her see the story she was intending to write.
    Legend was inspired by the movie version of "Les Miserables." It struck her that a version with teen characters would be compelling. She knew right away it would be a story told from two equal points of view, and she knew her characters would be foils for each other. One was emotional and hasty. The other was cold and analytical. Making them opposites--both of whom are good people--made for instant tension.
    Initially, though, both characters were male. Her husband suggested a female character might be more interesting. Flipping the gender made it more interesting and complex. It also helped her avoid gender stereotyping and create a more unusual character.
Breakout Session: Don Tate
School Visits
By Don Tate 

Throughout my career, I've visited hundreds of schools and
presented to tens of thousands of students. In my session, "School Visits," I demonstrated a portion of my school visit program and offered tips shared with me from other successful authors and illustrators who are visiting schools. Here's what I and a few others had to say:
Don Tate: Protect your voice! Drink plenty of water. And on the day of the visit, avoid caffeinated beverages that will dry your throat. Always use a microphone.

Chris Barton: Arrive early. Get set up early so that you can begin engaging with students as they enter the room.

Kelly Starling Lyons: Engage the students. Teach them a song that connects with your book.

PJ Hoover: Prepare. Bring your own computer, connectors, cords, Sharpies.

Carolyn Flores: Communicate. Ask the librarian if there are specific issues to be covered.

Liz Garton Scanlon: Be gracious. Following your presentation, send the librarian a thank you note.

And one last one from me: Educate. Provide downloadable teacher activity guides that are aligned with academic standards, designed by educators like Debbie Gonzales:
Most of all, relax and have fun!
We want your photos and good news! Tag us on Twitter/Instagram/ Facebook with pictures relating to kids or kids books. Funny, touching, interesting, revealing, you get the idea. Use #scbwitribeshare and we'll choose new snaps each month to share.  The 45th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference was another smash hit last week at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Check out some of the memorable moments below!

Faculty selfie (starting from left) Alvina Ling, Saho Fujii, Erica Rand Silverman, Kirsten Hall, Kat Brozowzki, and Matthew Ringler

Golden Kite Award winners John Parra
(top left) and Jessixa Bagley (bottom left)
sign books at the autograph party.

Beloved Regional Advisor
Linda Bernfeld awarded SCBWI Member of the Year.


Two children's books luminaries:
Richard Peck and Lin Oliver

Golden Kite Award winner
Kate Hannigan rolls out her rejection letters to inspire the crowd to never give up.


Artist Rep Kirsten Hall (left) and  Executive Editor Sara Sargent
Faculty enjoying the welcome party: Saho Fujii (left), Alvina Ling, Linda Sue Park, and Lisa Yee

Neal Shusterman (middle) and Lin Oliver pose with an attendee before Neal's inspiring keynote.
The fabulous diversity panel: (from bottom left) Author/Illustrator Don Tate, Author Lisa Yee, Author/Illustrator Pat Cummings, Editor Stacey Barney, and Illustrator John Parra.

The Regional Team Funday started at the mesmerizing Broad Museum.

RT Funday group photo in front of the Gilmore Girls set at Warner Brothers Studio.

RT members enjoying dinner on the Warner Brothers Studio lot.

Draw This!
Draw This! is our monthly prompt word for illustrators. 

Click HERE  for the gallery depicting all the month's entries. The July word was ADMIRE. 
Congratulations to our winners!

Nancy Lemon 
Kirk Parrish 

August's prompt is . . .
August entries are due August 20 to [email protected] 
Submissions for August will be up in our September gallery. 

Write This! August Prompt  
Write This! is on a new bi-monthly schedule. The AUGUST INSIGHT prompt winners will appear in the September 1 Insight. The next prompt will be in the October Insight. Send your Write This! entries to [email protected].

August Prompt:

As summer draws to a close, this months writing prompt takes us to the beach. In 150 words or less set the scene for a surprise that happens at the beach or in the ocean.